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Turkey, France Row May Jeopardize Missile Sale

Dec. 23, 2011 - 01:48PM   |  
By PIERRE TRAN   |   Comments
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PARIS - Turkey's suspension of military cooperation with France may make it harder to sell the Franco-Italian Aster 30 air defense missile to the Turkish authorities, a defense executive said Dec. 23.

Ankara froze bilateral defense cooperation and recalled its ambassador to France in retaliation to a new French law making it illegal to deny that genocides took place, including the deaths of Armenians in 1915.

"It doesn't make things easier, that's for sure," the executive said. "That makes relations tense with France."

Eurosam, a joint venture between French electronics company Thales and European missile maker MBDA, is prime contractor for the Sol-Air Moyenne Portée/Terrestre (SAMP/T) ground-based air defense system.

The SAMP/T system is competing in Turkey's tender for a long-range air and missile defense system. It is ranged against the Patriot missile from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the S300 from Russia's Rosoboronexport, and the HQ-9 from China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC).

MBDA's team in Turkey is led by its Italian side, as there are strong industrial ties between Italy and Turkey, including cooperation between AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries on the T-129 light attack helicopter.

"The SAMP/T offer in Turkey is officially made by Eurosam … but MBDA's Italian arm has effectively been the front office for the offer for a while now due to the ongoing friction between Turkey and France due in part to the genocide issue," said an Italian industrial source.

The SAMP/T is based on the MBDA Aster 30 missile and Thales Arabel multifunction radar. France and Italy were launch customers of the SAMP/T.

Between 2006 and 2010, France delivered a total 203.6 million euros of arms to Turkey, the latest annual report to parliament on French foreign military sales showed.

That made an annual average 40 million euros, or around 1 pct of average annual sales of 4 billion-5 billion euros.

As part of Ankara's response to the new law, French military aircraft cannot overfly or land on Turkish territory, French warships may not dock at its ports, and joint military exercises are canceled.

"From now on, we are revising our relations with France," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, AFP reported.

French lawmakers adopted the new law Dec. 22.

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